Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Off-Broadway Theater Review: Dry Powder

Claire Danes, John Krasinski, and Hank Azaria. Photo: Joan Marcus
Dry Powder
By Sarah Burgess
Directed by Thomas Kail
The Public Theater
What's It All About?
High finance, greed, integrity, ambition and loyalty, all rolled into a wad of priceless humor. Normally dialogue about mergers, corporate buy-outs, limited partners and sourcing jobs out of the US probably would cause our eyes to glaze over as we try to follow the plot, but in the skilled hands of playwright  Sarah Burgess, Dry Powder (a recipient of the Laurents/Hatcher Foundation Award and a finalist for the Blackburn Prize) is a compelling 95-minute study of modern business dealings and their effects on the people who orchestrate them -- and on the country as a whole as we tolerate them. 

Hank Azaria (most known for his work on The Simpsons) is Rick, the senior founding partner of a top-tier financial management firm in New York that has been weathering some really bad press lately. It seems the American pubic (and people world-wide, for that matter) didn't react well when he and his fiance through a million-dollar engagement party complete with elephants just after the firm took over a national grocery store chain and put lots of people out of work. High-strung, workaholic, numbers-crunching Jenny ("Homeland's" Claire Danes) assures Rick the hatred will blow over. The third partner, Seth (John Krasinski of TV's "The Office") isn't so sure. He had advised the boss to call the party off. And it looks like he was right. He always is, after all, he would tell you, when he and Jenny disagree. which is always -- that is why Rick chose them, so he can hear all sides before making a decision.

Meanwhile, Seth brings the partners a super deal that might turn things around for the company. CEO Jeff Schrader (Sanjit DeSilva) is willing to sell his luggage firm at a really unbeatable price, and Seth has plans to expand it by introducing a new line of customizable luggage. Jeff sees a way to cash out his aging owner and get a cushy job and bonus out of the deal for himself to finance the failing side business he and his wife started. There's just one catch. Seth has promised during the negotiations that none of the company's employees will lose their jobs and Jeff is holding him to that. Rick might have other plans, though.

When Jenny gets her analysts crunching numbers she finds that stripping the bleeding luggage company of assets and employees and refocusing production overseas might prove a higher return on the partners' fund investment.  Just how far are these folks willing to go --and what level of deceit is acceptable to use when you are looking out for Number 1?

What Are the Highlights?
Easily one of the best plays of the season. Taut direction by Thomas Kail, a stark, cool minimal set by Rachel Hauck to depict the souls of these folks, Original Music and Sound Design by Lindsay Jones and Costume Design by Clint Ramos all merge for the perfect Wall Street backdrop. The performances are stellar, from the bickering, insulting colleagues -- Seth gripped by the remnants of a conscience long ago abandoned by his partners and Jenny annoyingly shaking her head to emphasize every word hurled at Jeff, and confirming her matter-of-fact admission that her analysts "don't love me -- that's how you know their numbers are true." 

Azaria finds balance between a personality that appeals to people willing to part with large amounts of money to invest in his schemes, inspires his employees to go to any length for him while communicating a sincere lack of caring about anything or anyone in the end. DeSilva provides a softer, more likable character as contrast to the cut-throat atmosphere generated by Jenny and Seth, but not all is as it seems there either.

What Are the Lowlights?
None. Thoroughly entertaining. Well written.

More information:
Dry Powder runs through May 1 at The Public Theater, 425 Lafayette St., NYC. publictheater.org/en/Tickets.

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Our reviews are professional reviews written without a religious bias. At the end of them, you can find a listing of language, content or theological issues that Christians might want to know about when deciding which shows to see.

** Mature indicates that the show has posted an advisory because of content. Usually this means I would recommend no one under the age of 16 attend.

Theater Critic Lauren Yarger

Theater Critic Lauren Yarger

My Bio

Lauren Yarger has written, directed and produced numerous shows and special events for both secular and Christian audiences. She co-wrote a Christian musical version of “A Christmas Carol” which played to sold-out audiences of over 3,000 in Vermont and was awarded the 2000 Vermont Bessie (theater and film awards) for “People’s Choice for Theatre.” She also has written two other dinner theaters, sketches for church services and devotions for Christian artists.

Yarger trained for three years in the Broadway League’s Producer Development Program, completed the Commercial Theater Institute's Producing Three-Day Training and produced a one-woman musical about Mary Magdalene that toured nationally and closed with an off-Broadway run.

She was a Fellow at the National Critics Institute at the O'Neill Theater Center in Waterford, CT. She writes reviews of Broadway and off-Broadway theater (the only ones you can find in the US with an added Christian perspective) at http://reflectionsinthelight.blogspot.com/.

She is editor of The Connecticut Arts Connection (http://ctarts.blogspot.com), an award-winning website featuring theater and arts news for the state. She is a contributing editor for BroadwayWorld.com and is a theater reviewer for the Manchester Journal-Inquirer. She previously served as Connecticut theater editor for CurtainUp.com and as Connecticut and New York reviewer for American Theater Web.

Yarger is a book reviewer for Publishers Weekly and freelances for other sites. She is a member of the National Book Critics Circle.

She is a freelance writer and playwright and member of The Drama Desk, The Outer Critics Circle, The American Theater Critics Association and The League of Professional Theatre Women. She served as a judge for the SDX Awards presented by the Society of Professional Journalists. She also is a member of the Connecticut Critics Circle and the CT Press Club.

A former newspaper editor and graduate of the University of Missouri’s School of Journalism, Yarger also worked in arts management for the Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts, the Hartford Symphony Orchestra and served for nine years as the Executive Director of Masterwork Productions, Inc. She lives with her husband in West Granby, CT. They have two adult children.

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All material is copyright 2008- 2017 by Lauren Yarger. Reviews and articles may not be reprinted without permission. Contact reflectionsinthelight@gmail.com

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Key to Content Notes:

God's name taken in vain -- means God or Jesus is used in dialogue without speaking directly to or about them.

Language -- means some curse words are used. "Minor" usually means the words are not too strong or that it only occurs once or twice throughout the show.

Strong Language -- means some of the more heavy duty curse words are used.

Nudity -- means a man or woman's backside, a man's lower front or a woman's front are revealed.

Scantily clad -- means actors' private areas are technically covered, but I can see a lot of them.

Sexual Language -- means the dialogue contains sexually explicit language but there's no action.

Sexual Activity -- means a man and woman are performing sexual acts.

Adultery -- Means a married man or woman is involved sexually with someone besides their spouse. If this is depicted with sexual acts on stage, the list would include "sexual activity" as well.

Sex Outside of Marriage -- means a man and woman are involved sexually without being married. If this is depicted sexually on stage, the list would include "sexual activity" as well.

Homosexuality -- means this is in the show, but not physically depicted.

Homosexual activity -- means two persons of the same sex are embracing/kissing. If they do more than that, the list would include "sexual activity" as well.

Cross Dresser -- Means someone is dressing as the opposite sex. If they do more than that on stage the listing would include the corresponding "sexual activity" and/or "homosexual activity" as well.

Cross Gender -- A man is playing a female part or a woman is playing a man's part.

Suggestive Dancing -- means dancing contains sexually suggestive moves.

Derogatory (category added Fall 2012) Language or circumstances where women are referred to or treated in a negative and demeaning manner.

Other content matters such as torture, suicide or rape will be noted, with details revealed only as necessary in the review itself.

The term "throughout" added to any of the above means it happens many times throughout the show.

Reviewing Policy

I receive free seats to Broadway and Off-Broadway shows made available to all voting members of the Outer Critics Circle and The Drama Desk, the two professional critics organizations with journalists covering NY theater. Journalistically, I provide an unbiased review and am under no obligation to make positive statements. Sometimes shows do not make tickets available to reviewers. If these are shows my readers want to know about (I review all Broadway shows and pertinent Off-Broadway shows), I will purchase a ticket. If a personal friend is involved in a production, I'll let you know, but it won't influence a review. If I feel there is a conflict, I won't review their portion of the production.

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